This article was last modified on July 28, 2017.


Fantasia 2017 Film Review: “Better Watch Out”

On a quiet suburban street, a babysitter (Olivia DeJonge) must defend a twelve-year-old boy (Levi Miller) from intruders, only to discover it is far from a normal home invasion.

The early reviews on this film seem to be coming in mixed-to-positive. For those that are mixed, the concern seems to be how the film switches motives and tone approximately one-third of the way into the story. This is a fair issue to raise, but also somewhat misguided. With all the other crazy things going on in the film, the least of our worries should be the change in tone. (Unfortunately, this must be left vague, because otherwise it gives away far too much.)

In this reviewer’s estimation, the only real downside is the lack of parents, played by Virginia Madsen and Patrick Warburton. Obviously for there to be a babysitter in trouble, the parents have to be out of the house. But then why cast the hilarious Warburton or the horror icon Madsen? The clear answer is to have bigger names attached to the film. This can all be forgiven, though it might have been nice to check up on their night out just once for some witty banter.

While DeJonge may be the heroine or potential “final girl” of the film, the real star is clearly Levi Miller. At the time of filming he was only 12 or 13, but carries the full range of emotions throughout the course of the story. Scared, angry, happy, and even drunk, he goes through each naturally. He throws in some snazzy dance moves that serve no purpose other than to get the audience to be charmed by him (successfully in my case). Clearly his impeccable talents have not gone unnoticed, as he will soon be starring in Ava DuVernay’s highly-anticipated “A Wrinkle in Time”.

Saying too much about the film in a review is dangerous because a big part of its enjoyment rests on audiences not knowing things in advance. Suffice it to say, this is clearly a black comedy with horror elements, or a holiday horror with black comedy elements. If that sounds appealing to you, chances are you will enjoy it. If nothing else, you will be introduced to the concept of being “Home Aloned”, which is not one of the more pleasant ways to spend Christmas.

“Better Watch Out” screens July 28, 2017 at the Fantasia International Film Festival. For those who miss it there, it has been picked up by WellGo USA and is expected to start showing up in theaters around October 6. Whether it is limited or wide release remains unclear, but this does have the potential to become a minor cult classic.

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